Manti Te’o finally broke his silence in the embarrassing “catfish” hoax that has turned his world upside down this past week. He denied being part of a hoax involving a relationship with a person online whom he considered his girlfriend, during an interview with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap on Friday night, but did say he “tailored” his stories so people would think he “met her before she passed away.”

“No. Never,” Te’o said during the 2½-hour interview. “I wasn’t faking it. I wasn’t part of this.” Te’o said he didn’t know for sure that “Lennay Kekua” never existed until Wednesday, when Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called Te’o and admitted he was behind the hoax. Te’o said he received a Twitter direct message from Tuiasosopo where Tuiasosopo said he was the perpetrator, along with one other man and a woman. Te’o then talked to Tuiasosopo on the phone Wednesday.

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“Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing,” Te’o said. Asked who they are, he said: “I don’t know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah’s one.” Later Wednesday, posted a story detailing an online relationship Te’o thought he had with Kekua which he says he learned was a hoax. Te’o said he has not read the Deadspin story or any other media report since the news broke.

Te’o spoke at the IMG Training Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he is preparing for the NFL draft. There were no television cameras at the interview, which was recorded on audio. The Notre Dame linebacker said he did not make up anything to help his Heisman Trophy candidacy. Te’o finished second to Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. “When (people) hear the facts, they’ll know,” he said. “They’ll know that there is no way that I could be part of this.”

Te’o reportedly found out about the hoax on December 6th yet kept bringing up Kekua in public interviews. I’m saying this: who has a girlfriend for almost a year and not see what she looks like?


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